Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 23, 2021

This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 8-6-2021. This week’s newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan

The coronavirus vaccine rollout in Japan is accelerating nationwide. Officials say about 70% of healthcare workers have been fully vaccinated, and more than 20% of the elderly have received their first injection.

Over 170,000 people have received vaccines at large-scale inoculation centers in Tokyo and Osaka. The Osaka site became available to elderly residents of neighboring prefectures on Monday. On Sunday, the city of Yokohama, which has the largest number of senior citizens in Japan, also began administering the vaccine to elderly citizens at a mass vaccination center.

In order to speed up the nation’s vaccination rollout, workplaces and universities are getting involved as well. The government provides the vaccines, but company and university administrations must organize the medical staff and arrange suitable facilities to inoculate workers and students.

Police and firefighters started to receive coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday. The next stage of the national vaccination drive starts later this month. So far, shots have been largely limited to priority groups: medical workers and the elderly.

Data released by the government on Tuesday shows 8,411,792 or 23.7% of the nation’s elderly people, have received at least one shot. A relatively small number, 1,005,761, or 2.8%, have received their second. Tokyo’s vaccination rate for residents aged 65 or older is 26.8%, while in Osaka Prefecture the figure stands at 20.9%. The numbers represent people who have received at least one shot.

New infections are on the decline in many prefectures, but they remain high in Okinawa. Many schools in the southern prefecture are temporarily closing from Monday. High schools have switched to online classes so students can continue to study from home.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have conducted a drill to check the operation of a security monitoring system for venues at the games.

The Tokyo organizing committee plans to set up security headquarters for each of the 48 venues, including the athletes’ village. About 8,000 security cameras and 2,500 sensors will be installed in and around the sites. The drill was carried out at one of the venues in Tokyo on Monday, based on the assumption that a suspicious person breached security by climbing over a fence.

Once a sensor installed in the fence was activated, people participating in the drill confirmed the presence of a suspicious person using a nearby camera. A person at the headquarters contacted police for support and security guards were sent to the site to apprehend the suspicious person.

The Tokyo organizing committee says they have conducted drills using the security system since 2019. About 10 personnel are scheduled to operate the system around the clock during the games.

The organizing committee’s security chief, Iwashita Tsuyoshi, said a security system using this kind of technology has never been used before.

He said all preparations are going smoothly and he is confident the system will offer adequate security during the games.

Japan intends to issue COVID-19 inoculation certificates this summer to vaccinated residents traveling abroad, hoping to give business travel and other economic activities a boost, Nikkei has learned.

Such so-called vaccine passports are gaining use around the world. The European Union will adopt them in July ahead of lifting restrictions on travel within the bloc. Some senior Japanese government officials already carry unofficial certificates when they travel to Europe, the U.S. or elsewhere because they increasingly are asked whether they have been vaccinated.

An interagency team led by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato is discussing an official program for businesspeople and others. Plans call for issuing a paper certificate this summer, followed by a digital version, possibly used through a smartphone app, by the end of the year.

Vaccine passports are expected to ease the way for business people in different countries to meet in person by reducing the risk for both the traveler and host nation. “From a businessman’s perspective, it would be ideal if a vaccine passport makes free movement possible,” said Kobayashi Ken, chairman of the Japan Foreign Trade Council.

The passports will be issued by local governments that hold information on residents and are responsible for giving the vaccines. Information such as the person’s name, the vaccine manufacturer and the inoculation date will be listed. Japan’s central government is expected to guarantee accuracy by linking the certificates to a national vaccination records system.

Users will present the vaccine passports when taking international flights and entering foreign countries. Foreigners living in Japan who are returning to their home countries are among the anticipated users, in addition to Japanese citizens going abroad to study and for business.

“The 14-day self-quarantine period after returning home is the biggest hurdle for overseas travel,” said an official at travel agency H.I.S. “The tide will turn if restrictions are eased with the introduction of the vaccine passport program.”

Japan models its scheme on the EU Digital COVID Certificate debuting 1 July. The EU certificate, issued to those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, will exempt holders from self-quarantines and testing. Seven countries including Germany are using them on a trial basis this month.

On 31 May, the European Commission recommended that bloc members gradually ease travel restrictions, taking into account the introduction of the vaccine passport. The EU is expected to allow visitors from outside the bloc, such as the U.S. and Japan, if they received vaccines approved by the EU.

Critics say vaccine passports could lead to discrimination against those who are not vaccinated. In the U.S., different states are taking different approaches. New York launched the Excelsior Pass smartphone app showing a person’s vaccination history in March, and the app has been downloaded more than 1 million times.

But Georgia has banned the state’s public entities from requiring vaccine passports, based on the view stated by Gov. Brian Kemp that “vaccination is a personal decision between each citizen and a medical professional — not state government.” Georgia said it will not share the state’s vaccination records with any public or private entity for the purpose of a vaccine passport program, even though it will continue urging residents to be inoculated. At least 10 states have similar restrictions, according to U.S. media.

Japan is debating the matter cautiously. One proposal calls for the central government to create unified guidelines to prevent a mishmash of rules created by companies and municipalities hoping for a speedy return of normal economic activities.

International cooperation will be essential for a vaccine passport program to work. The Group of Seven nations confirmed the need to work together on this issue at a recent meeting of health ministers in the U.K. Nations hope to create a framework for recognizing each other’s vaccine passports, with the World Health Organization playing a central role.

Days of free plastic forks and straws are numbered under new Japan law. Restaurants hunt for innovative solutions to cut down on single-use waste.

Japan’s restaurants and retailers will soon have to stop giving away plastic forks, spoons and containers under a law passed Friday to cut down on such waste, instead looking into such options as charging for utensils, switching to biodegradables, or letting customers fend for themselves.

Companies that use large amounts of single-use plastic will be required to take steps such as asking customers whether they want utensils, charging a fee for them or switching to products made from biodegradable materials — or risk fines of up to 500,000 yen (€3,700) for repeated violations. The law is expected to take effect next April, with many of the details to be worked out by ministries in the meantime.

Japan used nearly 10 million tons of plastic in 2019 and generated 8.5 million tons of waste plastic, according to the Plastic Waste Management Institute. Only a quarter of this waste was recycled rather than burned or put in landfills. The government aims to double plastic recycling by 2030 and looks to use the new legislation to spur businesses to lead the way.

Businesses that have relied on free plastic utensils and containers are already weighing their options. Convenience store operators such as Seven-Eleven Japan, for example, offer plastic spoons and forks for free with meals such as pasta and curry. “We will consider charging for them going forward,” among other possibilities, a representative from a major convenience store company said. FamilyMart has not set out specific policies but said it will “actively work to reduce plastic” waste.

The law could spur a shift in consumer habits, much as the introduction last July of mandatory fees for plastic bags has done. The share of customers declining bags at the register jumped from around 20% to the mid-70% range at convenience stores, and from 60% to 80% at supermarkets, likely thanks to more shoppers bringing in reusable bags, according to an Environment Ministry survey of industry groups.

More companies are likely to turn to such alternative materials as paper. Restaurant chain operator Skylark Holdings will consider offering eco-friendlier utensils for takeout and delivery. All Nippon Airways will in August switch to meal containers made with sugarcane fibers for in-flight meals in economy class. It expects the change to reduce its single-use-plastic waste by 317 tons per year, or about 30%.

Starbucks pledged a few years ago to phase out plastic straws worldwide by 2020, providing such other options as paper straws and strawless lids. The coffee shop chain began selling reusable silicone straws in Japan this past March.

Materials makers are getting in on the act as well. The law sets out guidelines for manufacturers on designing environmentally gentler plastic products. The government will certify and promote easy-to-recycle goods, which will be marked with a logo to make it easier for consumers to make eco-conscious decisions.

A type of water- and oil-resistant paper developed by Daio Paper is set to be used in stirrers for a big cafe chain, and the company looks to market it for utensils as well. Mitsubishi Chemical offers biodegradable plastic that can decompose into water and carbon dioxide, which is seeing broader use in straws and disposable cups.

The law has raised concerns among some businesses, like convenience stores, which face such questions as whether to keep prices uniform to avoid confusing consumers. Restaurants have come to rely more on cheap and sanitary single-use plastic utensils as they have ramped up delivery and takeout in response to the pandemic. “We’ll lose customers if we start charging for spoons,” a restaurant chain executive said.

Industry groups from Japan and Finland will conduct joint research and development of sixth-generation communications technology, looking to lead the creation of 6G standards in a field increasingly influenced by Chinese companies.

Finnish telecom supplier Nokia, a global leader in the industry, will join the effort. Japan’s Beyond 5G Promotion Consortium will sign the agreement soon with Finnish group 6G Flagship. The accord is to be announced Tuesday at the Global Digital Summit 2021, an event organized by Nikkei and Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The initiative follows a $4.5 billion commitment by Japan and the U.S. toward the development of next-generation communications technology, in a partnership announced in April. Extending the cooperation to “third-countries” to promote secure connectivity is seen helping in the competition with China to set global standards.

The Beyond 5G Promotion Consortium, which aims to commercialize 6G technology in the 2030s, includes the University of Tokyo along with major Japanese telecom players such as Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, NTT Docomo, KDDI, SoftBank Corp. and Rakuten Mobile. 6G Flagship is led by Finland’s University of Oulu.

Members of the Japanese consortium will engage in joint research projects and personnel exchange. The group is in talks for future collaboration with an American counterpart that includes telecom supplier Cisco Systems and chipmaker Intel.

Shares of 5G patents owned by Japanese developers have fallen behind the likes of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and U.S. player Qualcomm. NTT Docomo holds about 6% of 5G patents, compared with roughly 10% for Qualcomm and China’s Huawei Technologies.

The internal affairs ministry aims for Japan to command at least a 10% share in 6G patents together with a slice of 30% or more in equipment and software.

Update on the Netherlands

Data from RIVM showing the decrease of people testing positive.

People born in 1982 – 1987 are eligible to make an appointment for a corona vaccination (Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna). 

It is possible to make an appointment online via the website www.coronavaccinatie-afspraak.nl using DigiD, or by phone to 0800 7070. Make sure you have your passport when doing this, you will need your social security number (BSN).

Please note that if your letter has not arrived yet, you can still already try to make the appointment by phone call. We know from experience this can be done. For Japanese and other non-Dutch speaking members, if you have questions about this, feel free to contact us. It is also advisable to reach out to your HR department.

The corona figures are still favorable in all areas: the number of vaccinations is increasing, while the number of positive tests and hospital admissions is decreasing, RIVM reports. 

The figures were incomplete due to a malfunction this morning, but RIVM thinks that the final figures will not differ much. The total number of positive tests fell by 30% in the past week to almost 14,500. The number of tests taken also fell, but of all the people who came to the test street, fewer also carried the corona virus. As a result, the percentage of positive tests falls from 9 to 7.2%.

The decrease in the number of positive tests was smallest among 0 to 17 year olds. There have also been more tests conducted among minors in the past week; this increase was greatest among 0 to 12 year olds (+14%) and among 13 to 17 year olds (+6%). That could be an effect of the opening of secondary schools, the RIVM thinks. The number of positive tests in that age group did decrease, as in all other age groups.

The number of hospital admissions also fell in the past week. The number of admissions to intensive care is 42% lower, and for the first time since 6 October, less than 1,000 corona patients are admitted, according to the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS)

60 people have been admitted to the ICU in the past week. Outside the ICU this concerns 429 patients, a decrease of 23%. There are now 937 people with corona in hospital (yesterday: 993), 321 of whom are in ICU (yesterday: 343).

The number of beds in intensive care units in Dutch hospitals could be scaled down to 1,150 from Monday 8 June, which is the same number of IC beds as before the corona crisis. The National Network Acute Care (LNAZ) decided that on Friday.

The cabinet expects to come up with an action plan this month for the transition to the period after the corona epidemic. That said the outgoing Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge during a corona debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The outgoing cabinet hopes to be able to present plans soon for the transition from the epidemic to the endemic phase, Minister de Jonge said. He is referring to a phase in which the virus will still pop up here and there, but people will no longer infect each other on a large scale, as they are now.

The question is how to deal with, among other things, corona tests, said De Jonge. For example, whether people are only tested if they have symptoms of disease, or whether testing can or must also be done before major events.

The corona measures are currently laid down in the Temporary COVID-19 Measures Act, which expires on 1 September. De Jonge wants to let the House know in the week of 21 June what the cabinet deems necessary for the period thereafter. If a new law is required, the minister wants to send the proposal to the House of Representatives at the beginning of July.

Anyone who had a corona infection more than six months ago can be fully vaccinated with one injection. 

That was the advice of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) last week. The minister will announce on Friday that he will adopt this advice. Vaccination planning is in any case accelerated somewhat.

Going through COVID-19 leads to “broad stimulation of the immune system”. As a result, the body is able to withstand a new infection. Until now, a period of six months was assumed, but based on recent studies, the Outbreak Management Team concludes that this can be abandoned. It no longer matters when someone tested positive.

It also does not matter whether someone has had serious complaints or none. For people from all age groups up to eighty years old, one dose of a so-called mRNA vaccine is sufficient after a previous infection. Only those with a weakened immune system should get the usual two shots.

It is not clear how many Dutch people are suddenly fully vaccinated or only need one shot as a result of the policy change. The GGDs have so far registered nearly 1.7 million positive tests. Nearly a million people who tested positive were under the age of 50 – the target group that is still waiting for a vaccine or has just had a first shot.

De Jonge thinks that the pace of injection can be increased slightly because people cancel the second appointment. However, it is not known exactly how much, because it is impossible to say how many people have already had a second shot after an infection. “It could be hundreds of thousands of shots, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Those who still want a second shot after an infection are allowed to. “It is always a free choice. But it is said that they would get a little more side effects after that,” says De Jonge.

The Dutch ingest too many so-called Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) via food and drinking water, the RIVM concluded on Friday after examining its own previous studies. 

Recent scientific research has shown that PFAS are more harmful to health than originally thought. As a result, many limit values ​​have been lowered.

PFAS is a collective term for thousands of substances that are used in, among other things, clothing and non-stick pans. The substances are broken down very slowly in the environment. If a person ingests small amounts over a longer period of time, this can already have a negative effect on their immune system, the RIVM writes.

The experts advise the government to let Dutch people come into contact with PFAS less. There is little people can do themselves to avoid them.

One of the concrete advice given by the RIVM is intended for people who live within a radius of 1 kilometer of chemical company Chemours in Dordrecht: they are advised not to eat vegetables from their own vegetable gardens. In 2018, RIVM still ruled that they could do this, but not too often.

It is also better not to eat vegetables from the Sluisdijk allotment complex in Helmond. PFAS ended up there through the chimney of Custom Powders, a factory that stopped using pfas in 2017.

According to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the chance of an acute health hazard is small. Efforts are underway at a European level to curb the production of the substances.

In the case of serious crimes, it will soon be possible to provide suspects with DNA before conviction, according to a change in the law by outgoing minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice and Security). 

At the moment, DNA is only taken when someone is convicted. That is too late, the Hoekstra Committee stated in 2015 after the murder of former minister Els Borst. The former minister was murdered in February 2014. Almost a year later, in January 2015, perpetrator Bart van U. was arrested.

This could have been done sooner if Van U.’s DNA had been taken during an earlier arrest in 2012, the Hoekstra Committee concluded in a critical report that year. Van U. was only now associated with the death of Borst after the murder of his sister Lois. Had Van U. been arrested earlier for the murder of Borst, he would probably have been incarcerated at the time of his sister’s murder.

The amendment to the law will make it possible to take DNA from every suspect who is arrested for a serious crime. That offense must then be of such a serious nature that the person remains in custody pending trial, or is released after questioning, but is still a suspect in a case for which he or she can be sentenced to prison.

By making it possible to take DNA from a suspect before conviction, according to Grapperhaus, it is possible to create a DNA profile of 99% of the convicted. At the moment this is still happening too little: DNA is actually taken from 87% of the convicted and a profile is created in the database.

The fact that this does not happen to everyone may, for example, be the result of convicts being released after the trial, or running away and ending up unable to be found by authorities. Although the DNA will be collected sooner, this does not mean that it may be used immediately. It will first be stored in a different place than the current DNA database. The DNA profile in the database may only be created if someone is actually convicted. If a suspect is not convicted, the cell material must be destroyed.

With the amendment to the law, Grapperhaus has adopted the recommendation of the Hoekstra Committee, which argued in favor of taking DNA earlier. The minister has already indicated that he agrees with this recommendation. However, he first wanted to investigate whether this was legally feasible and what conditions are attached to be allowed to do this legally.

In the letter to Parliament, he states that work is now being done on the further implementation of the amendment to the law. For example, Grapperhaus will look at a good IT facility for storing the data. It is also determined which independent government organization will be responsible for taking and storing the DNA material.

Update on Dujat & Members

Thanks to the relaxations of the corona measures, Dujat can finally – at small scale – go offline again. As you may have seen we have opened registrations for two events this mont. It may be short notice, but we could not make the decision sooner.

For an overview of upcoming Dujat events, please see below. For two events we already opened registrations, others will follow soon. If you did not receive the personal invitation, please let us know. There are only limited seats available, so we recommend to register as soon as possible.

16 June: COVID-19 and Vaccination in Dutch Labor Law – Round Table with L&A Lawyers at Cityden Up (Invitations sent yesterday)

23 June: Special Concert at NedPhO-Koepel (Invitations sent today)

24 June: Hybrid Event: Accelerating New Technologies – Learn how 5G and AI can boost your business, and how cyber security can protect it. – Optional on-site tour for limited group at HTCE in Eindhoven, also an interesting livestream.

01 July: Visit Yanmar Stadium and Floriade Area in City of Almere – Incl. transport by Dujat Bus from Amstelveen. More information coming soon.

10 July: Dujat at Women’s World Tennis Tour + Lunch – Save the date was sent already last month. More information will be shared with you later.

All of our events will be organized according to the corona measures. Invitations of each event will include instructions such as house rules, face mask requirements etc. Negative corona tests are not necessary to attend our events as we will stick to only limited groups.

For questions please contact vangastel@dujat.nl.

If your company has any news to share in next week’s newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: Nu.nlNOSRTL NieuwsJapanTodayNHKNikkei Asia